Somerset County Council’s Road Safety Team is advising motorists to park their mobile phones before driving as new laws with tougher penalties come into place this week.
From Wednesday 1 March, the law will change and drivers caught using a handheld phone will receive six points instead of three with fines doubling from £100 to £200.
Cllr David Fothergill, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Road Safety, said: “We’re fully supportive of these tougher penalties. All too often we see drivers using a handheld phone while driving, either to talk, text or go online.
“It’s impossible to fully concentrate on the road while you’re doing this and sadly driving blind while looking at a screen can have devastating consequences.
“This is a really important message, so please switch off your phone before driving – and always encourage others to do the same.”
Research has shown that reaction times can slow by 38 per cent when receiving or sending text messages. In trial conditions, drivers were found to change lane unintentionally and were unable to react to the changing speed of vehicles in front. The effect on the brain is thought to be greater than when using alcohol or cannabis.
Somerset Road Safety provides advice to thousands of people every year through educational events and also runs Bikeability courses for school children and trains School Crossing Patrols. The team also supports companies through the Mind Your Business programme and has more than 2,900 subscribers through Facebook and Twitter, generating an average in excess of 16,000 impressions each week. Please visit www.somersetroadsafety.org for more details.